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2021 New York Jets Offseason

Requiem For A QB: Reflecting On The New York Jets Trade Of Sam Darnold

Months of speculation and Twitter spats came to an end yesterday when the Jets confirmed they had traded Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers.

Just three years into his NFL career, former third overall pick Darnold finds himself on his second team. It’s far from the last major decision Jets General Manager Joe Douglas will have to make this off season, but as the dust begins to settle on the trade, it’s worth reflecting on the fallout and what it could mean going forwards…

It feels like a win win trade

This feels like one of those trades where it’s genuinely a solid move for all concerned. Douglas and the Jets got good value (a sixth round 2021 pick, a second round and a fourth round pick in 2022) for a player in which serious interest in the end likely came from just one team. 

For the Panthers, it’s a worthwhile swing at a player who not so long ago was regarded by many as the best quarterback in his class, without giving up a huge haul of picks. If the Panthers can correct some of the technical and decision making flaws which marred Darnold’s time here in New York, they will be delighted with what they had to give up to get him. If not, they can move on without too much damage.

For Sam himself, he’s re-united with former Jet Robbie Anderson and joins a roster with a stronger supporting cast of playmakers than he ever had in New York. It’s an exciting young coaching group in Carolina, led by one time almost Jets coach Matt Rhule and offensive co-ordinator Joe Brady. Assuming he wins the Panthers starting job from Teddy Bridgewater, Darnold should get every opportunity to show if his struggles thus far have mostly been Jets related.

This is on Darnold as well as the Jets

If your Twitter timeline is anything like mine, it’s been mostly filled of late with videos of the best throws made by Zach Wilson and Justin Fields at their recent pro days and from their college careers. Well guess what, Sam Darnold can make most of those throws too…

The problem is that he’s just as likely to throw the ball straight into the hands of an opposing cornerback as he is to one of his receivers. Yes, the Jets did a horrible job of protecting him and surrounding him with talent, but not every time Sam coughed the ball up was because he was running for his life, or had no-one open. 

Darnold struggled to read defenses throughout his time as a Jet and there were times he clearly panicked under pressure. Per PFF, Darnold’s grade of 59.1 was dead last amongst gradings from a clean pocket in 2020. Unless that dramatically improves, a similar fate awaits him in Charlotte

This makes depressing reading

And even the most pessimistic Jets fan couldn’t have predicted that the only player still on the team since this picture was shot just two years ago would be….Chris Herndon

What will Joe Douglas do with his haul of picks?

Obviously, the biggest decision the Jets face next is who to select at number 2 in the upcoming draft. It feels like Zach Wilson is almost certain at this point, but the debate is likely to continue to rage right up to draft night. 

With the Jets now holding 21 picks in the next two drafts, including two 1sts and two 2nds each year, Joe Douglas and Robert Salah have an incredible opportunity to fill this roster with much needed young talent across the board. With only one draft to his name, we don’t really know if Douglas is likely to keep those picks, trade back to get more or even look to put a package together to move up for the right player. 

Personally, and I’m probably in the minority here, I’d like to see the Jets be bold and creative and look to move up from 23 in round 1 this year if they can. I thought they might use Darnold as part of a package on draft day to do that with either Carolina or Denver, so this move makes that unlikely. But if the board falls the right way, I’d like to see the Jets move up. 

Good luck Sam

Despite the chaos surrounding him during his time in New York, Darnold never once complained about his situation, his coaches or teammates at any point. He spoke of his love for New York, a constant desire to get better and he never shied away from questions when he didn’t play well. He was an easy guy to root for and like most Jet fans, I wish him only the best as he tries to turn his career around. 

All the best Sam…

As the late Edward R. Murrow used to like to say, “goodnight and good luck.”

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